Rise and Shine! I think we finally made it to Day 5 and we’ve been anticipating this day since we learned about the trip. Elmina Castle

If you missed out on the first few days, check out these posts:

Part One

Part Two

We left our accommodations at the Golden Tulip Kumasi and took a two-hour drive to Cape Coast.

Just a little background on Cape Coast Castle (Elmina Castle). Built by the Portuguese in 1482. This Castle is also known as St. George’s Castle. This castle was the first European structure built in Sub – Saharan Africa. The view of the colorful harbor nestles below the Elmina Castle, full of pirogues preparing to go to sea offers one of West Africa’s best picture-perfect opportunities. And while the aesthetic description of the castle sounds so amazing, the history harbored on the grounds brought everyone to tears.

As the tour guide narrated the story of my ancestors, every breath I took felt precious. As we stood in the chambers that women and children were once confined to, as we could hear the cries of women being raped by their captives, as we felt the scratches in the walls with nails markings engraved in the cold cement…I lifted my voice in prayer. As much as I like to write and recant my thoughts, I couldn’t do it this time. 10 months later, and I still can’t talk about how I felt in there. CNN interviewed with Alex Afful, a tour guide for the castle. I wanted to share some excerpts from the interview along with pictures that Lauren Cowart captured while we were there.

Elmina Castle Bloggers

 

Normally they want the healthy captives, so first they have to count. They have an instrument that they use to open their teeth, to count the number of teeth that they had,” Afful explains.
“In some cases, they have to be whipped for them to jump, for them to see how strong that they are. So, that’s the first phase. Now, when they get in here, day after that has been done, they were then put in the various dungeons.” After being tested, the captives were confined to Elmina’s dungeons where conditions were shocking, even by the standards of the time.

“…There were no toilets. There were no bathrooms. In some cases, they had straws on the floor, which they used as a mattress and so on,” Afful describes.
“In all these dungeons, they were given buckets, which they were expected to ease themselves.” “But because of the conditions they were in, the chains they had on their feet made it almost impossible for them to get to this bucket.”
But in a market where the seller had little control over how each slave could be distinguished, the buyers often felt the need to label their new property, in the most inhumane of ways. “Now, with the branding, each merchant has its own method of doing it. Some will use alphabet; some will use numbers on the form of a metallic stamp,” Afful describes. “They put it in the fire, already they have some oil on their body (to) prepare them for the journey. So they burn them on the skin,” Branded and subjugated, the captives were led aboard awaiting ships through the Door of No Return. “… when the ship came, they took them in batches through the ‘Door of No Return,’ and they get to the ship, for the journey to proceed from there,” he says.
The ‘Door of No Return’ still swings, centuries after, a menacing reminder of the captives’ descent into a life of terror and relentless servitude. “Initially, this door was bigger. But when the slave trade began, it was reduced this way. So that one person can come in at a time,” Afful says. The Door, the dungeons where captives were restrained and the walls through which these slaves walked all serve as cues of a story that Africa seems to have confined to the past.
“We have to move away from the perception that, ‘oh, history is about the past, history is about people who are dead and gone,'” Abaka says. “It is our story. If we don’t tell our story, somebody will tell their story,” he adds. “I can hear the wailing of my ancestors here. The souls that have been lost. … But it’s good to be home,” he says. 
dfd
After reflecting on our time there, I realized how grateful I am for the beauty around me. My ancestors fought for their freedom (yup, not everyone held captive decided to stay in captivity, some risked their lives to get their freedom back. In fact, Haiti was the first Black Country to receive their independence from a European country…the people in Haiti had a Killmonger mentality, “Nah, bury me in the ocean with my ancestors that jumped from the ships. Because they knew death was better than bondage.”
Now that I am able to reflect on life and my accomplishments, I am able to truly pay a beautiful hommage to those who came before and fought for me to be here. Even my mom is very much still alive. Coming from Haiti and finding ways to make it work for myself and my siblings is no small task. If I only had half the strength my mom had..
Today, I chose to look at Elmina Castle as one of the many testaments to our strength as African people. Today, I wear bright colors and smile because I honor my past…not lament in it. My ancestors have passed, but they wouldn’t want me to pity them. They’d want me to shine bright and show the world that we can’t be held down. They’d want me to continue collecting knowledge and using this knowledge to educate and uplift the oppressed people. They’d want me to stand tall and beautiful, not cower at other people’s perception of me.
Please come back as I wrap up the last few days of my time in Ghana!
Til next sleep,
Char.